How to Inspire Workplace Innovation: Increase Employee Self-Efficacy

Workplace innovation can be somewhat elusive, so what are the secrets to encouraging creative thinking and innovation within the workplace?  A new study (Ng & Lucianetti, 2015) explores what factors influence individual innovative behavior. Previous research has not given sufficient attention to employees’ sense of agency in determining innovation. Sense of agency means the innate desire and intention to affect outcomes by one’s own actions. This study sought to address this issue.


Innovative behavior is comprised not only by generating new ideas, but also by spreading those ideas through the organization, and working to apply those ideas. This study focused on creative self-efficacy, persuasion self-efficacy, and change self-efficacy and their impact on innovative behavior. Creative self-efficacy is the extent to which employees believe in their ability to come up with new ideas. Persuasion self-efficacy refers to employees‘ level of confidence in their ability to translate ideas and get buy-in from others, and finally, change efficacy deals with employees’ ability to deal with work demands despite challenges and changes within that environment.


The findings suggest that as employees feel increasingly confident in the three areas of self-efficacy (creative, persuasion, and change), there is a corresponding increase in innovative behavior. This emphasizes the link between employees’ cognitive beliefs about their own abilities and their subsequent behavior. Peer respect was also found to aid innovative behavior, as employees are more likely to share and contribute when they feel their ideas and efforts are respected. This goes a long way in reducing the anxieties and fears that stifle innovation.

In addition, the study found that employees’ sense of organizational trustworthiness was a contributing factor to facilitating innovation. Another key finding was the extent to which a sense of collectivism may not facilitate innovative behavior, despite efforts targeting growth in self-efficacy. This may be due to the fact that collectivist-minded people value social cohesion, which innovation may disrupt.


This study shows that belief in one’s own creative ability is critical in fostering innovation. In terms of training, the focus should be on increasing all three types of self-efficacy. This will help impact the various aspects of innovative behavior: idea generation, persuasion and implementation. Managers should seek to create an environment that welcomes new ideas in order to reduce the anxiety and fear associated with contributing.

Also, individuals with a collectivist orientation are usually valued in organizations, but this personality orientation could hinder innovative performance. However, there are various ways of promoting collective innovative behavior, such as linking reward systems to team performance.

Ng, T. W. H. & Lucianetti, L. (2015). Within-Individual Increases in Innovative Behavior and Creative, Persuasion, and Change Self-Efficacy Over Time: A Social-Cognitive Theory Perspective. Journal of Applied Psychology, 101(1), 14-34.